The Gentleman's Guide

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Spring/Summer 2006

I'm all excited! This is my first review of the fashion for a forthcoming season and I can't wait. I've scoured catwalk show after catwalk show (56 of them in all) just to distill the vast array on display into a coherent set of styles for the season, and I finally get to share my findings with other people.

  • Colours.
  • Looks.
  • Patterns.
  • Beachwear.
  • Summary.

The most important thing in most collections is the colour, and even the least fashion-conscious of you should be able to spot that white is the colour of the moment, seemingly as some sort of counterpoint to all the black of Autumn/Winter 2005/06. Almost every single one of the designers is using lashings of white (oddly, D&G don't seem to have picked up on this much though). There is, of course, a whole spectrum of whites, with cream, magnolia *shudder*, and dozens of others that mean off-white. The industry doesn't seem to be shrinking away from really brilliant bright whites though. Bad news if you tend to spill your drink, but it will look awesome if you can keep clean.

Of course, fashionistas are never content with such a limited palette, and the other two colours that have been cropping up lots are black (left over from winter) and red. Team white with either or both, but go easy on the red unless it really suits your colouring (hint: it probably doesn't). Pale blue has also shown up a bit but it remains to be seen whether this has the same sort of significance as the other three colours.

Next, let's focus on style. Clearly Brokeback Mountain has had a significant effect, since the usually fickle fashion industry still seems somewhat enamoured with cowboys in some quarters, notably DSquared2. The only trouble is trying to combine bright white with such a rugged look is it may look a little incongruous - tread with care if you're not a resident of Hoxton. The best suggestion for those of us who live in areas that aren't quite so liberal about style is to just pick a single item from each option and work it into an established outfit, e.g. cowboy boots with jeans and a white shirt, untucked.

Onto more coordinated looks, and it's time to break out the blazers. All this white seems to be causing the fashion houses to give us looks evoking public school (albeit in a rose-tinted kind of way), or long Indian afternoons spent sipping G&T (to repel mosquitoes of course) on a veranda. Tons of white blazers and sports jackets around, dressed up or down (see Issey Miyake, who even has a cricket jumper in the collection), and a lot of white suits which will look awesome with an open shirt on holiday but terrible in March in Burnley. There's also the danger with a white suit that you could start to look too Huggy Bear - wear with care - see how Jasper Conran does it for pointers on good practice. Paul Smith is also worth checking out for the English vibe. Expect to hear the words 'Great Gatsby' and 'Brideshead Revisited' more times than you can stomach in fashion articles in the coming months.

Heidi Slimane over at Dior Homme has been obsessing over Pete Doherty a little too much, as evidenced by his rock-star-influenced collection, but it's a step away from the NY styling of previous seasons and a more British look with drainpipe trousers, skinny ties (preferably with a square end), porkpies and trilbies and even braces! The look was echoed by Costume National, who worked on a 50's rocker theme but reached a similar destination, albeit looking more presentable and showing more skinny ties and less braces. Dolce and Gabbana was another label keen to jump on the malnourished rocker bandwagon (alongside some lovely white suits). Number 9 also went rocker but oddly they sent every one of their models down the catwalk in Axl Rose fancy dress. I have trouble believing their bandannas and boxer shorts look is going to seem like a good idea by June. Equally, Comme des Garçons went a bit crazy for the Rolling Stones lips logo but personally I'd advise against this unless you're extremely restrained about it.

Another look which seems to be everywhere, Versace, Dries van Noten, Perry Ellis, both the Emporio and Giorgio Armani collections, and parts of Louis Vutton to name a few, is a look that I can best describe as 'Mediterranean Gigolo'. Loose shirts, linen trousers (careful not to look like MC Hammer), rich browns and purples to go with the whites, and over-sized aviators. Pale pastels are also cropping up quite a lot, perhaps in preparation for the forthcoming Miami Vice movie. Finish the look with ethnic-style jewellery and flip-flops, but don't be surprised if no-one talks to you at nightclubs in Britain since this only works with a Latin swagger (and colouring) and is best left for trips abroad. Especially the flip flops.

Lastly there's a very loose category that I've heard described as 'Explorer' which is where everything else seems to be lumped. More off-whites, beige, linen and canvas. What more can I say, other than pointing out that you probably have a fair amount of stuff from this category in your wardrobe already. Please, for goodness sake, dare to try something a little more exciting.

Pattern is always important but as yet there seems to be no real consensus. Jackets seem (thankfully) to be remaining in solid colours or with very basic and unoffensive pinstripes, but shirts and trousers have been vertical stripes, horizontal stripes, stripes radiating across the chest, floral patterns, plaid, and everything else in between. I'm going to stick with my vertically striped shirts for now and see how things play out. T shirts are more predictable but also more difficult. If you can find a shirt that was printed in North Korea by Kim Jong Il, sent back in time for a million years, then worn by a meteorite as it burnt up in our atmosphere then that might just be obscure and vintage enough, but probably not. You know the drill by now - good luck finding something original. Don't buy any more polo shirts though. They looked great last year, but then got massively over-exposed on Big Brother, the surest way to kill a trend.

Lastly, what to wear at the beach? Your shorts should stop just above your knee and floral patterns seem quite prevalent. Don't get something that looks like it was made out of one of Fat Boy Slim's Hawaiian shirts though - try something a little more restrained while still colourful. Alternatively, try a solid colour in a brown, blue, or any other slightly subdued colour. No beige trunks, because it looks like you're not wearing any, and no white ones because they go transparent when wet. See most of D&G's collection to get an idea.

In summary, if you can only buy one item for summer then make sure it's white. Other than that, although the military theme has died a death, there's still life in some of the other looks from winter and even last summer if you're careful how you work them. Failing that, just copy Pete Doherty (antisocial habits excepted), but bear in mind this only works if you're skinny.

Addendum, 18/3/2006: The new collections are now all out on the high street. Since what appears on the catwalks isn't always an entirely accurate reflection of what you can buy in the shops, I spent the day today scouring the fashionable retailers to check what they're trying to sell us. Firstly, I seem to have hit the nail pretty much on the head above. Very pleased with myself. Secondly, there's one or two things that I didn't forsee. The one that sticks out most in my mind is that the white theme has even been interpreted by some jeans manufacturers. Yes, you heard it; white denim. The horror! I can't stop you buying it, but I've certainly got no plans to part with any cash for it, since it's going to discolour horribly in no time, show up every bit of fluff you may have sat on, and look very very 80's. Not in a good way either. A more palatable trend is a nautical theme. It could work well with the white items that are everywhere, though once again may look a little silly in most British nightclubs.

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I just bought a white Fred Perry blazer. It's gorgeous. Not much help to you, I know, but look how gorgeous it is:

Gorgeous white blazer